Exam stress – A growing Concern

There has been a significant increase in the number of young people seeking counselling over exam stress, and as per some of the recent studies conducted on the same, the increase could be as high as 200%. For child rights protection campaigners and parents it could be more worrisome than their child’s overall education status.

As I am no expert in this, so allow me the liberty of quoting a CBSE helpline figure, where the national board announced that its exam helpline service received record number of approaches from students and their parents, who are apprehensive about exams. Also, the queries about counselling over exam stress have tripled in last two years. In 2014-15 alone, the board received more than 34,000 approaches from students over school concerns such as problems with teachers, revision, workloads, and other issues, placing education in the top 10 of most recurrent trepidations among users for the first time. More than half of subsequent counselling sessions organized by the board dealt with young person’s main concern related to school and exams; a 200% increase compared with 2013-14. And the number of hits on the online website and through social media channels is even higher.

Talking to some of the experts, I realized that the major concern amongst children was the worry whether they will be able to score well in their exams and live up to the aspirations of their parents. Under the pressure to score well and surpass the overall competition children end up putting unnecessary pressure on themselves, which leads to stress and in some severe cases depression too. Psychologists have also reported that each year, especially during the exam session, children and their parents feel more stressed. A common mistake, which almost every parent makes, is the fact that many bar their children from participating in any other activity, citing the aspersions of the exam season. These figures came when hundreds of thousands of pupils were preparing to sit for CBSE as well as entrance exams in India. Even in primary schools, the scenario is no different, parents are scrambling to get their children registered while dealing with last moment blues.

As these figures reveal, the exam period can be a very stressful and anxious time for young people; add to it the pressure to do well and one would have perfect recipe to stress and depression. In no terms I am agitating against the tests, which are conducted as part of an effort to judge how well the pupil has understood the concepts of the process, however, the fault lies in the lack of support system for children. If we talk in ethical terms, schools have a moral obligation to support their pupils during times of pressure, and ideally schools should have strong setups in place to do so. We have, however, failed to take steps to ensure pupils are not on a constant treadmill of revision and testing.

Family relationships, as per many experts, were cited as the most common concerns by young people using the service in 2012-13. Another reason for the rise in exam stress could be nervousness on the part of teachers to deal with such cases in their classrooms. It is possible to draw a link between increased stress and exam reform and the accountability framework under which schools are ranked and measured. India’s children are some of the most tested in the world – and doctors, teachers and parents want change.

Schools are also testing pupils more frequently to prepare for exams. A survey last year – by a company that sells security seals used for exam papers – found that many secondary schools made pupils sit mock exams within a month of the summer holiday’s ending.

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